Vacaville Woman Looks Back On 9/11 Heart Transplant

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Surgeons working at operating table (AP)

Surgeons working at operating table (AP)

MikeColgan20100909_KCBS_0410r Mike Colgan
Mike Colgan, who has worked in Bay Area radio for more than 40 year...
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CBS SF Bay (con't)

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VACAVILLE (KCBS) – Amid all the tragedy on September 11th, 2001, one 13-year-old Vacaville girl got a life saving heart transplant at Packard Children’s Hospital.

Ten years later Jennifer Silva, now 23, was just reunited with the surgeon who performed the transplant that day. She had been near death, when a donor heart was found.

”I feel like God has something planned for me,” said Silva. “On such a tragic day when everybody is dying he saved my life, so I am very grateful.”

Silva’s mother Naomi Gunter said that joy that a donor heart had been found was tempered by the fact that all flights were grounded following the attacks. They feared that there would be no way to transport the organ into the Bay Area. But as it turns out, the heart that was headed for Silva didn’t have to come by air.

KCBS’ Mike Colgan Reports:


”For a short time we didn’t think that she would get the transplant because we were watching on TV that airplanes were grounded and they were maybe going to shut down bridges and stuff,” said Gunter. “She was supposed to go into surgery at 7:30, but it wasn’t until 10 or 11 that they said that the heart was coming from the greater Bay Area.”

Pioneering transplant surgeon Dr. Bruce Reitz, who conducted the seven-hour operation, said that it was actually comforting to be able to perform a transplant on that chaotic day.

”We were able to return to some type of normalcy for our group and get down to the things that we knew and loved to do,” said Reitz. “We could actually be helping someone on a day when so much that was wrong was going on.”

Silva is going to need another heart transplant soon because the one she has now is beginning to fail.

”They don’t know what’s causing my heart to fail again, but it is failing,” said Silva. “So hopefully in the next month or so I’ll be put on the list and then I’ll be waiting for another one.”

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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